Knights of Calatrava Flag

The Order of Calatrava (Spanish: Orden de Calatrava Portuguese: Ordem de Calatrava) was the first military order founded in Castile, but the second to receive papal approval. The papal bull confirming the Order of Calatrava as a Militia was given by Pope Alexander III on September 26, 1164. Most of the political and military power of the order dissipated by the end of the 15th century, but the last dissolution of the order's property did not occur until 1838.

It was founded at Calatrava la Vieja in Castile, in the twelfth century by St. Raymond of Fitero, as a military branch of the Cistercian family. The etymology of the name of this military order, Calatrava, conveys the meaning: "fortress of Rabah".

In the Cistercian Order, then only recently formed (1098), there had been a large number of knights or sons of knights. In Calatrava, on the contrary, those who had been monks became knights. Monastic life has been called "a warfare", and it would be a mistake to suppose those rough medieval warriors sought in the cloister only a comfortable asylum after a troubled career. In both lives, there was a heroic struggle to sustain, whether against one's passions or against the Muslims, and the austerities of an ascetic life could not have been more dreadful to them than the privations of camp life and the wounds of battle. These impetuous natures, who did nothing by halves, were eager to take Heaven, as they took earthly strongholds, by storm. However, the Order of Calatrava owes its origin not to any deliberately prepared plan, but to fortuitous circumstances.

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